Since the summer of 2010, staff and pupils have been working closely with four other schools in Italy, Greece, Germany and Latvia on the project, “Our forefathers’ regional, historical and cultural heritage”. From 3rd – 7th October, it was our turn to act as host to staff and students from the partner schools.
Spirits among the young people, hosts and teachers were never dampened by what turned out to be a week of memorably awful weather! After formal introductions and tours of the school on Tuesday, our visitors enjoyed demonstrations of traditional skills given by volunteers at the Gairloch Heritage Museum. At the Culloden Centre on Wednesday, the group experienced an informative tour of the atmospheric battlefield, followed, in stark contrast, by a visit to Loch Ness.
On Thursday, half the day was spent on an archaeological trip to Port Henderson, where the visitors were also welcomed into the crofthouse home of Roddy and Alice MacKenzie, and the other half on a wildlife treasure hunt at Inverewe Garden.
On Friday, each group gave a presentation about their heritage projects to the school: the Greeks’ project is on the history of the Parthenon in Athens, the Italians’ the story of Charlemagne, and the Germans’ the history of the divisions in their country post World War Two. The Gairloch group gave their presentation on how the Gaelic language describes the landscape, then showed a series of photographs of Laide Wood, along with the recital of a poem about it by Miles Campbell, recorded in Gaelic by pupils Anna Hulme, Kenneth MacKenzie and Kirsty and Ciaran Alexander. The Latvians’ presentation was about their traditional musical instruments, and finally, in traditional costume, they demonstrated a lively folk dance to the accompaniment of accordion music.
In the evening the young people, parents, staff, members of the community and guests, including Acting Director of Education Mr Calum McSween, came to our community ceilidh, the highlight of the visit. Entertainment was provided by our folk band, C for Craic, pipers, combined junior and community adult choirs, harpists and the local ceilidh band, sadly its final appearance with Don Mackenzie. There were performances by all the partner school groups: memorable singing and dancing by the Latvians, Italian folk dancing, Greek bazouki playing and dancing, and a play by the Germans featuring a live performance by Beth Hunter’s dog Dimàirt!. S2 pupils Matthew MacLean and Jordan Gorman gave a rousing “Address to the Haggis” before the traditional fare served at the interval.
The evening, and the whole visit, ended with presentations to the partner schools by Mr Port, and a multi-lingual vote of thanks by Alison Campbell. Souvenir booklets made by pupils in S1 and S2 were presented to all guest students.
Alison Campbell and Beth Hunter thank everyone who made this visit such a success:
In the school – Mr Port, the senior management team, and the many teachers involved with the project; Andy Bowker , particularly for his invaluable help in driving the minibus; Rhona and Lorna in the office for helping with the admin for the project; Libby and her staff in the kitchen for catering for the extra numbers and their special ceilidh meal; Yasmeen in the library for creating displays for the public about the countries involved in our project.
In the community – the staff and volunteers at the Gairloch Heritage Museum, Paul Bolton, Forest Ranger, and staff at Inverewe Garden, Roddy and Alice MacKenzie, Anne MacInnes, of the Scottish Local Archaeology project, the band and all performers at the ceilidh, Colin Roy, and those of you in the community who supported us in many ways, whether by providing musical instruments, or coming along to the ceilidh..
Finally, and most importantly – all the families who generously opened their doors and their hearts to host visiting students. Without their kindness and hospitality, this venture would have been impossible.
Preparations will be underway shortly for the next part of the project in the high school and our visit to Breno in Italy with another group of pupils in February 2012.